Tonight, I took the painful, nostalgic plunge into uncharted territory.
I drove through campus as an alumnus.
It was quick, like a shot at the doctor’s office. I drove straight through and into Newmarket for a round of golf and a burger at Rocky’s with Mom. On my way out, the doctor pricked me again. Except this time, the needle stuck.
The familiar has never felt so strange.
I will never be in Durham the same way I once was. Not if I go to graduate school, not if I become a professor, not even if I take over Huddleston’s cushy job.
I’m a permanent visitor. The road team.
So many of my favorite places are no longer mine: The clocktower. The dorms. The luxurious lawn begging to be laid on in the breezy sunshine. The Whitt. The tennis courts. Ham Smith. The MUB. Pauly’s. Ballard’s. Wing’s. That center spot in front of the library.
I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t ask to go. My four years came and went. I didn’t realize what I had until it was gone. Time didn’t ask my permission. If it had, I would’ve begged: Please don’t make me go out there! I’m not ready! The real world has work! Bills! Taxes! Responsibility!
But I am ready. Other than a few forms I can’t begin to comprehend – I have enough trouble with a W2, don’t even try me on health care terminology or insurance or leasing agreements – I know what I’m doing out here. I have a job. I have an apartment. I have bills and I have paychecks. I am responsible. Sustainably independent.
But here’s the thing: it fucking sucks.
Not the way the Buckeyes or Rosby or the Blackhawks do. Not the way disease or death rips apart your life. But it’s the only way I can think to describe the change in lifestyle between a student in college and a young adult in life. It fucking sucks.
And I’m not trying to complain. Honest. The fact is that the change is jarring.
It doesn’t matter if you’re doing what you love, working a shit job, or struggling to find one at all. It just hits you all of a sudden. The Dorothy Moment:
I’m not in college anymore.
I’m not in the mood to preach. If you’ve got years left at school, do what you want with them. But know this: whether or not you want to, whether or not you’re ready, you’ll be leaving someday. You’ll be an alumnus.
And the transition’s not an easy one.